One of the lessons from my childhood that I have held onto is about apples and oranges. The owner of the summer camp I attended as a teenager had a philosophy of apples and oranges. The reasoning was that everyone had a basket, sometimes it held apples, sometimes it held oranges; the idea was that you should always share what's in your basket with people who don’t have any fruit. Eventually, you’ll get the apples or oranges that you need later.
Upon reflecting about Black Lab being open for a year, I have been thinking about someone that was not involved in the build but was around when I was there. I spent most days visiting the build site to give some place for myself to go during the day and to help ensure things stayed on schedule. That means I wandered Leslieville often in search of lunch. The quick and easy destination was the large Loblaws directly south of the brewery. Outside of the grocery store, most days there was a man begging for change. The difference about him was his almost infectious positivity. I rarely carry cash or change, so after running into him several times, I knew I had to help him out. Lunch was going on a corporate credit card anyways, might as well use it for some good.
“Hey, I don’t have any change, can I buy you lunch instead?”
“Sure! That would be great!”
“They have these chicken sandwich lunches that I was going to grab, would that work?”
“Uh, no, I’m vegetarian, so I can’t have meat.”
“Well, what would you like?”
“Mangoes! I love mangoes, also they have these Greek salads that are really nice.”
So, I went in and found a mango and a Greek pasta salad. I paid for the lunches and then returned to the entrance where the man held his cardboard sign. The useless idiom is that beggars can’t be choosers. His eyes lit up as he wasn’t expecting both a mango and a salad. I introduced myself and shook his hand. His palm was worn and calloused.
I repeated this over the final weeks of the project. If my memory serves me right, his name was Ryan, but I am certain that his dog’s name was Major. Even though he was homeless, he worked the night shift nearby. He would spend the days begging and trying to find places to sleep. When he could manage, he would visit his parents outside of the city to see the other dogs that he knew he couldn’t take care of by himself. While I have been back to Black Lab almost monthly since then, I have yet to run into Ryan and Major again. Wherever they are, I hope their basket is full of apples, oranges, and mangoes.